Physical Therapists: Professionals Working Toward Wellness

What is the difference between a Physical Therapist and a Physical Therapist Assistant?

Physical Therapist (PT)

Prior to becoming a physical therapist, students complete rigorous didactic and clinical training that includes (but is not limited to) anatomy, Kinesiology (study of movement), study of disease and injury, healing and recovery, and a myriad of therapeutic treatment techniques (e.g. passive modalities, therapeutic exercise).

TrainingPrior to practicing students must obtain either a Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Physical Therapy and pass an examination to become licensed. Some students continue formal education to obtain designation as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).

Physical Therapists are certified by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and are governed by a strict ethical code of conduct. They are required to complete CE's, credits for Continuing Education throughout their career. Further, many therapists choose to concentrate on a subspecialty of physical therapy such as orthopaedics or sports.

Therapists practice in many different settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab centers, home healthcare agencies (serving homebound patients), and private practice.

The Physical Therapist evaluates patients; designs individual treatment plans, re-assesses patient progress, and supervises other therapy personnel.

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

A Physical Therapist Assistant completes a two-year professional certification program to obtain an Associates Degree in Physical Therapy. Under the close supervision of a Physical Therapist, the PTA is able to perform most treatments. A PTA is not involved in the patient's initial evaluation, treatment plan design, or re-assessment.

The PTA carries out the treatment plan as outlined by the Physical Therapist. This may include teaching patients therapeutic exercises, performing ultrasound or other passive modalities, and observing and recording the patient's progress.

Updated on: 06/02/16
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